National Sustainability Committee (Society of Graphic Designers of Canada)

Simplifying sustainable design principles

What is sustainable graphic design? My collaborator Sebastian Abboud and I volunteered our time with the Graphic Designers of Canada’s (GDC) National Sustainability Committee to create an infographic answering this very question. Over the course of nearly a year (!) we debated, designed, and refined this infographic together. As with many volunteer projects, it was an awesome learning experience, and an opportunity to hear from a variety of voices within the GDC. I’ve been a GDC volunteer for many years, and this project really shone the light on a depth of understanding that I’m not usually given space to discuss.

As defined by the GDC, “Sustainable communication design is the application of sustainability principles to communication design practice. Practitioners consider the full life cycle of products and services, and commit to strategies, processes and materials that value social, cultural, economic and environmental responsibility.” In a way, it’s hard to sum up sustainability, since it impacts almost everything due its inherent integrated nature. And as many of us are beginning to understand, good design is sustainable design.

We created this poster for designers who might not know a lot about what sustainability means. Our goal was to make sustainability feel more tangible by suggesting things in each of the four pillars that designers can focus on to create change within the context of their work. Sustainability is often discussed in broad strokes (because it is broad and all-encompassing) so we kept the infographic simple and attractive, and provided one or two new ideas to build curiosity to learn more. We worked to extend our icons and colour palette beyond the blue/greens usually associated with eco-friendly design, which gave this content a current vibe.

I truly enjoyed leading this self-directed volunteer project, which aligned well with the NSC’s goal for 2017/2018 of making sustainability visible. It also allowed me to discover how talented an illustrator Sebastian is! After thinking about starting this project for years, I’m happy to have something to share when students and designers alike ask, “What is sustainable graphic design?” And I’m grateful for Sebastian’s time and patience, and all the NSC committee members who contributed their energy to this project: Steven Cretney, Valerie Elliott, Erika Rathje and Elise Cheetham.

Visit the GDC website for a full-PDF of this infographic.

Creative Direction & Project Management: Lisa Hemingway // Design & Illustration: Sebastian Abboud